Truc Tran
02 May 2018

The accidental litigator: In conversation with Truc Tran, Crown Prosecutor and Litigator

Published on 02 May 2018
Truc Tran never meant to be litigator. In fact, his parents hoped he would become a doctor, and after much conversation, they eventually agreed on law. Truc has since forged an impressive career as a Crown prosecutor, a litigator in boutique firms, and as a litigation solicitor for the Financial Markets Authority. He will shortly join the College of Law New Zealand as an adjunct and ambassador. Insights spoke to Truc about his career to date, what he enjoys most about what he does, and what advice he might have for solicitors looking to strike their own path and thrive in law.

“I did not want to be a Court room lawyer or litigator,” admitted Truc. “I wanted to be a corporate lawyer working in finance – though to be honest, I didn’t know what that meant! I thought I didn’t have the confidence to be a litigator, so doing deals behind the scene seemed the way to go. It was only when I was doing my professional legal studies that an instructor told me I should really consider litigation because she was impressed with my advocacy skills.”

Fortuitously, Truc found and applied for a job as a litigator in a mid-sized Auckland law firm.

“When I started out, I mainly did civil litigation, employment, and criminal defence work. It was very hands on, and I was in Court regularly. During my Court appearances, I would watch the Crown prosecutors and their impressive advocacy. That was when I knew I wanted to be a Crown prosecutor.” 

In addition to several years in the Crown Solicitor’s office, Truc was a founding member of the litigation team for the Financial Markets Authority. 

“It was one of the best places I’ve ever worked at. I worked on some ground-breaking cases, including the first ever market manipulation case in New Zealand.”

Truc finds the positive impact of his work to be immensely rewarding.

“I know I am making a difference in my role as a Crown prosecutor.  I get to deal with people who genuinely care about our community and victims of crime. The cases that have stood out for me are those involving victims of childhood sexual abuse. Sometimes years after the initial abuse, these victims build up the courage to talk to the police. Until that point, no one would listen to or believe them – not even members of their own family. During the trial you see these victims give their evidence in Court, where they are under alot of stress and trauma having to relive those memories again. They then get crossed examined vigorously by defence counsel. After they give their evidence, you can see a massive burden has been lifted off their shoulders. When the results go our way, these victims start to trust our justice system and the police who have helped them along the way. You see them regain their self-confidence. It’s humbling to know I played my part in that process.”

The College of Law New Zealand has recently invited Truc to be an ambassador and adjunct lecturer.

“What I like about the College is that they are very active in promoting continuing legal education and they seem to constantly keep up with the latest changes. Working with the College will enable me to pass on my practical knowledge and experience to the next generation of lawyers. In my view, you can be book smart, but that can only take you to a certain point. Young practitioners need to be pragmatic and use a bit of common sense. I believe all practitioners have an obligation to impart their knowledge and mentor the next generation of lawyers.”

To this end, Truc has rather pragmatic advice for lawyers looking to thrive in the law.

“Don’t get too caught up with job titles. Remember, a solicitor in one firm may be more experienced than a senior associate in another firm. Be humble. You never stop learning in law, so don’t be a know-it-all, especially early on in your legal career. Every case and every transaction will be an opportunity to learn and develop. Make the most of it. If you don’t know an answer, make sure you take the initiative to try and find the answer yourself first, before you ask for help.” 

Truc also urged young lawyers to pursue work in boutique firms or government.

“If you don’t get a job in one of the big law firms after university, don’t be so hard on yourself. It might be a blessing in disguise. Usually, working in smaller firms means that you are exposed to a wide range of work and you get more opportunities to have direct contact with clients, or you get to go to Court more. That doesn’t mean working in a big city for a big law firm is a bad thing! They all have their pros and cons. You need to weight it all up and figure out how it will fit in with your lifestyle and your career and personal goals.”

He cautioned lawyers against getting too caught up in the idea that productivity requires long days and nights in the office.

“You can be very productive and not have to work long hours. If you do work long hours, don’t complain – but do find a way to maintain a work-life balance. You don’t want to burn out within the first two years of practice!”

Finally, Truc emphasised the importance of collegiality – especially in a profession as small and close-knit as the law.

“Treat your colleagues and opposing counsel with respect at all times. You might appear in front of them as a Judge one day or they could end up interviewing you for a job at their firm!”